In a party room at Drive Shack in Orlando, Bridgestone Golf was doing a deep dive on their new Tour B golf balls. They were explaining what had them so darn giddy the last few months, confident that their new lineup would be a game changer for their business.
A little while into the presentation, the team got to the Powerpoint slides that told the story. On the first slide, there were lots of Cs, Os and Hs in a chain, along with a few Ns -- the chemical formula for the urethane they had used on their original Tour B golf balls. On the next slide, there were even more letters, forming a longer chain of a urethane-adjacent substance they're calling Reactiv Urethane.
That second slide, though, only flashed for a hot second before anyone hip to what was being showed could whip out their phone and snap a pic of Bridgestone's newest trade secret.
This is a technology Bridgestone has been working on for years. In the past year in particular, Bridgestone has been working diligently with Tiger Woods and their other staffers -- but especially Tiger -- to dial in performance.
The story of the new Bridgestone Tour B line of golf balls is almost entirely based around the cover. Since golf balls evolved in 2000 (Tiger Woods was playing a solid-core Nike ball that Bridgestone made for them), urethane covers have taken over the landscape. No tour-caliber ball worth its dimples is made from anything other than urethane. However, urethane requires a compromise between distance and spin that push and pull against each other. If you want a longer ball, you get one with less spin. If you want a spinner ball, you get one with less distance. That's why every major ballmaker has two tour-caliber models. Your choice, your trade-off.
With the new Reactive Urethane cover -- that's close enough to urethane to get the legal department A-OK but substantively different -- Bridgestone believes that compromise is no longer necessary.
Reactiv is a cover material the company dubs "smart urethane." The difference is what's called an "impact modifier," which is all those extra chemicals on that Powerpoint slide. The formulation is able to be more resilient on full-speed shots for more distance, while delivering softer feel on scoring shots for more spin and control. Off the tee, Reactiv rebounds quicker than traditional urethane for a more efficient energy transfer from club to ball. With wedges, Reactiv hangs on the face longer to generate more spin.
The Reactiv cover works with the other components of the ball, including the Gradational Compression Core technology, which starts with a softer compression in the inner-most portion of the core and firms up on the way out. An Active Acceleration Mantle builds speed on longer shots in tandem with the Reactiv cover.
Four models, and a big star
As has long been the case with Bridgestone, they have four ball models, split along two axes: two for driver swings of 105 mph and greater, two for those under 105 mph; two which are distance-oriented, two which put control more front and center. That's true with the new lineup as well.
Tour B X and Tour B XS are three-piece balls for those over-105 mph swingers, with the XS being Tiger's ball, the one with more spin and a softer feel. Woods has often said he wants a ball that feels somewhat reminiscent of the balata balls he learned to use when he was younger -- just with the benefits of modern design and materials.
The Tour B X is a little firmer this time than the original, and both balls promise somewhere in the area of 3 extra yards off the driver with a 1.5 mph increase in ball speed.
Tour B RX and Tour B RXS are also three-piece balls, have a softer cover and are meant for those swinging under 105 mph with the driver. They're the tour-caliber ball for most everyone else, including Fred Couples, who put the Tour B RXS into play and landed in a PGA Tour Champions playoff to start 2020 in Hawaii.
If there's a data standout of the four models, it's the RXS, which got the biggest boost from Reactiv. Bridgestone data shows a 6-yard hike over the old RXS, all the while in a lower-compression package than the previous generation.
The RX and RXS models are available in white and optic yellow, as you've probably seen Couples in the latter.
As important as distance, all four balls, the company says, are delivering 350 rpm more on 15-yard pitch shots. That's a pretty big leap, too.
The Bridgestone Golf Tour B family of golf balls are available Feb. 14 (hey, hey) for $45 per dozen.